At Least 24 Killed as Two Bombs Strike Pakistan

 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -Two powerful explosions rocked the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Tuesday morning, killing at least 24 people, Interior Ministry officials said. At least 170 people, including several children, were wounded.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility but the nearly simultaneous explosions seemed to follow a pattern of recent attacks on law enforcement officials and the Pakistani military by extremist tribal groups.

The first blast ripped through the Lahore regional office of the Federal Investigation Agency at around 9:20 a.m. during the morning rush hour. More than two hundred people were reported to be inside the building at the time.

At least 21 people were killed in the first attack, according to officials. Pakistani officials said the blast, which was so powerful that it was heard for miles around the city, could have been caused by a bomb planted in a car in the parking area outside the offices.

The explosion damaged many nearby buildings. The agency building is located on the busy Temple Road in Lahore, and commercial and residential buildings and a few schools are nearby.

The second explosion occurred in a residential neighborhood, known as Model Town, and killed 3 people. Police officials described it as a suicide attack.

Local news channels showed gory images of destruction caused by the twin explosions, which set off a wave of panic in the city.

More than two dozen vehicles, crumpled like paper, lay scattered on the road outside the agency building.

Big plumes of smoke billowed out of the building, which was almost completely destroyed. Its windows were blown apart and staircases damaged. Officials warned that the eight-floor building could collapse at any time.

Distraught relatives were shown standing near the debris of the building, hoping to find out what had happened to their loved ones. Ambulances and rescue workers took the wounded to different hospitals where a state of emergency was declared.

Last year, the Interior Ministry sent a confidential memo to provincial police chiefs, asking them to upgrade the security precautions surrounding the F.I.A. headquarters in Islamabad.

The memo warned that terrorists had made videos of several government locations and sent them to militants in the semiautonomous tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, where the Pakistani Army is battling groups sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The F.I.A. office in Lahore, however, was not identified as a potential target.

Earlier this month, two suicide bombers attacked a naval war college in Lahore, killing at least four people, including three in the Pakistani Navy, in what was described by the government as the first suicide attack on any naval installation in the country during the recent wave of terrorism

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/world/asia/12pstan.html?hp

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